Eurochild and Martin James Foundation partnership to push for child protection reforms in Poland

Eurochild will provide technical assistance to Polish Foster Care Coalition to enable civil society to advocate for a strong deinstitutionalisation strategy launched earlier this year by the Polish government.

Panelists at the National Congress of Fostering organised by the Polish Foster Care Coalition in 2019

Following its flagship campaign to reform child protection and develop family and community based care for children in alternative care under the Opening Doors for Europe’s Children campaign, Eurochild continues to drive reforms with the support of Martin James Foundation. Recognising the potential for reforms in the Polish child protection system, Eurochild will provide technical assistance to Polish Foster Care Coalition (hereinafter, PFCC) to enable civil society to advocate for a strong deinstitutionalisation strategy launched earlier this year by the Polish government. This is part of a 14 month-long technical assistance programme offered through the MJF partnership to Poland, Croatia and Greece.

Situation in Poland

Since 2012 Poland has an Act on family support and alternative care system but there has been weak progress towards deinstitutionalisation. While an estimated 50,000 children live in family-based care,  a major proportion of children 21,362 still remain in institutional care (Maly rocznik statystyczny polski 2020, Statistical office, Warsaw 2020). Children need individualised care, which institutions cannot provide.

Moreover, re-institutionalisation has been promoted. There has been an increase in the number of residential care facilities from 779 in 2010 to 1,166 in 2019. There are different types of institutional care facilities: the new facilities that can accommodate up to 14 children, institutions for infants up to 1 year old and for children with disabilities up to 45 children (Source). Many children with disabilities are placed in so called DPS (Dom Pomocy Spolecznej) or Social Welfare Facilities that run 24h/7 days a week. These institutions host 50 or even up to 200 residents, with different ages & types of disabilities. These practices go against the UN Guidelines for Children in Alternative Care which elaborates the rare situations when separation of children from their parents is necessary, and the ways in which the choice of the care setting and the period spent in care must be tailored to each child and promote stability and permanence.

Some positive outcomes have been recorded in strengthening families via various social programmes and social assistants. More than 140,000 families in need received support in 2019. In February 2020 Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Policy established a cross-sectoral group to develop a national strategy of deinstitutionalisation for Poland until 2040, creating an opportunity to address some of the challenging practices.

Pushing for child protection reform

Polish Foster Care Coalition as a member of children, youth and family sub-group of Ministry of Labour is participating in the drafting of a deinstitutionalisation strategy. With the technical assistance they will be able to learn from European peers in the Eurochild membership, share their needs and catalyse EU-level opportunities in the form of funding and policy mechanisms. They will also gather evidence on the current situation regarding child protection and advocate for stronger measures. Furthermore, PFFC will develop four local projects to promote family-based alternative care in different districts of Poland. In December 2020 they will organise an online Family Fostering National Conference that will summarise the local projects and further promote realisation of deinstitutionalisation in Poland. The speakers will include recognised international scientists and practitioners as well as relevant politicians and decision-makers. Selected for their expertise in the area, their ability to coordinate with other civil society organisations and gain the most from this technical assistance, PFFC will benefit from access to training & expertise in different practice areas, as well as capacity building to leverage EU policy and funding influence.

The partnership with MJF and Eurochild support will push for reforms across Europe through a three-pronged approach. Apart from technical assistance in Poland, Eurochild will support CSOs in Croatia and Greece. Additionally, it will assess broader trends to identify gaps in child protection systems across Europe and propose tested solutions, and build the capacity of member organisations working on children in alternative care through a cycle of webinars / peer learning sessions responding to their specific needs. Eurochild members will exchange good practices to respond to the needs of foster families, providers of residential care and care leavers.

About Polish Foster Care Coalition

Polish Foster Care Coalition, established in 2010, is an advocacy umbrella organisation that gathers NGOs focused on child rights based on UN Convention of the Rights of the Child, especially the child’s right to grow up in a family environment. Their efforts are focused on deinstitutionalisation of alternative care for children. PFFC represents 17 NGOs in Poland. Its members include SOS Children’s Villages Poland, Polki Moga Wszystko Foundation, and Dialog Foundation among others. PFCC also engages a group of experts who participate in social committees of Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Policy and contribute their expertise to the European Commission DG for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion.